Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Saddam’s Unrepentant Judge

An Iraq High Tribunal member talks about Saddam Hussein's trial

*This is a powerful interview which depicts the brutality of the Hussein regime. It also delves into the issue of "honor killings" when rape victims are killed by a family member to restore family honor.

From Newsweek:

Judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa is a member of the Iraq High Tribunal, which was created to prosecute crimes that occurred under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Khalifa presided over the conviction of Saddam Hussein and the so-called Anfal trial, which specifically dealt with the crimes committed against Iraqi Kurds. The Anfal decision, as it is known, named six of Saddam's highest officials as responsible for the genocidal campaign that left hundreds of Kurdish people dead. It also designated rape as a form of torture. In one case Khalifa remembers the story of a female prisoner whose baby died soon after she gave birth. The woman was not allowed to bury her child. Instead she was forced to watch dogs rip its tiny body apart and eat it. During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Khalifa spoke with NEWSWEEK's Jessica Ramirez about the work of the Iraq High Tribunal. Excerpts:

What kind of court is the Iraq High Tribunal?

Our court is an exceptional court, in part, because we are doing very specific work on crimes committed by Saddam's regime. When that mission comes to pass then the court will be dissolved. The Global Justice Center, which has recognized the Iraq High Tribunal's work in the area of women's rights, had you meet Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg. What did you discuss?
It was brief, but we learned about the high court in America and the function of the constitution. We talked about the kind of cases they have looked into and jurisdiction. We discussed the number of judges who preside and some history of the court.

When you and the other judges reviewed the information that led you to believe rape was a form of torture in the Anfal decision, what kind of stories helped you reach that decision?

There were many. Kurdish women have suffered a lot. When the ruling authorities at the time used to arrest civilians, they would isolate women from men. That was the first step. Then they would isolate young men from old men. The young men would be taken and killed. The elderly people would be taken to stay with the women. Once this was done then they would start investigations. The elderly ladies, their investigation would not take a long time. The investigation would be concentrated on the young ladies. That is what court witnesses said.

Some of the elderly ladies told us that the investigators would take some of the young women at night saying they wanted to investigate them. In fact, there was no investigation. They were being raped. We asked the elderly women how they knew this. They said that when the young ladies came back they told that they were raped. Another elderly woman had seen the rape occur through curtains. Those who were not raped directly during the investigations were asked to be naked and investigated in that manner.

Another witness we spoke to was arrested under the accusation that he had used foul language against the son of the president. He was beaten and tortured. He was ordered to confess to being a member of an opposition party. If he confessed he was told he would be executed. He refrained. He was a university student. So the security men resorted to another way of getting him to confess. They tortured him with electricity, pulled out his nails and broke his bones. I believe he was even sexually violated. As a means to force him to confess, they brought his mother and sister. The security men then raped them one after the other before him. They expected him to confess, but he didn't. They sentenced him to prison. He was released in 1990. When he was released he found that his mother had been executed. In 1991, during the events of the uprising, he fled. So they executed his father, two of his brothers and three sisters. He had no one remaining. Every member of his family is dead.

Often, if a woman is raped, a family member will kill her in order to restore the family honor. Do you think Iraqis should change their view of rape in general, and not just as it pertains to crimes committed by Saddam's regime?
[Honor killing] happens when a family does not understand and does not have a clear viewpoint of what happened to their daughter. She is a victim. How can she be a victim twice? Iraqi law does not protect those who kill women that are raped. The court should always be on the side of justice when the woman is a victim.

Read the full interview

Thousands of Women Killed for Family "Honor"

From National Geographic:

Hundreds, if not thousands, of women are murdered by their families each year in the name of family "honor." It's difficult to get precise numbers on the phenomenon of honor killing; the murders frequently go unreported, the perpetrators unpunished, and the concept of family honor justifies the act in the eyes of some societies.

Most honor killings occur in countries where the concept of women as a vessel of the family reputation predominates, said Marsha Freemen, director of International Women's Rights Action Watch at the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Reports submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights show that honor killings have occurred in Bangladesh, Great Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda. In countries not submitting reports to the UN, the practice was condoned under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban government in Afghanistan, and has been reported in Iraq and Iran.

But while honor killings have elicited considerable attention and outrage, human rights activists argue that they should be regarded as part of a much larger problem of violence against women.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:24 PM

    Thanks for blogging about this subject.

    Actually, in 2000, the U.N. estimated there are 5,000 dishonor killings per annum globally. Most experts (me included) think that figure is understated by quite a lot.

    Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
    "Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"